Agri-Minister should meet with Wales sugar workers – AFC

AFC Vice-Chair Moses Nagamootoo

Close to three months after the closure of the Wales Estate was announced, the Alliance For Change (AFC) believes that Agriculture Minister Noel Holder, who is also a member of the party, should meet with the sugar workers.

In a statement, the AFC noted, “there were criticisms raised about how the Wales Estate planned closure announcement was handled and the party Vice-Chair Moses Nagamootoo advised that the Government should meet with and (have) dialogue with the sugar workers”.

The statement, written in response to reports, noted that the party is not pleased with the direction in which the Agriculture sector is heading and may be getting ready to push for changes, including the appointment of another person to assist subject Minister Noel Holder.

According to the party, “No decision was taken for the party leader, or any other AFC Cabinet member, to take any issue, of any new appointment in the Ministry of Agriculture, to Cabinet or to His Excellency”.

Media reports quoting a senior official of the AFC stated that some members in the AFC leadership now believe that Minister Holder may need some assistance in running the Agriculture industry and is contemplating a request from the President that he adds another Minister to the Agriculture portfolio.

Since the Government’s announcement of the closure of the Wales Estate in January, several persons have made calls for the Minister to meet with the sugar workers, inclusive of the opposition-PPP, the Guyana Agriculture and General Workers Union (GAWU), as well as several citizens via letters in local newspapers and the workers themselves.

One person in a letter noted that “all of the sugar workers that I have communicated with are calling for an immediate visit to the Sugar Estate by the Minister of Agriculture, as an important step to bringing greater normalcy to a very unstable situation”.

Sugar workers who also protested earlier this year in front of the Parliament Building, Georgetown called for the Minister to visit the Estate noting that this will enable them to better get answers to questions and move forward.

The government has planned to close the Estate at the end of 2016, after which some workers will be transferred to the Uitvlugt estate.

It was noted that the Industry cannot sustain the estate which has a per hour capacity rating of 95 to 100 tonnes of cane given its financial status.

GuySuCo’s General Manager Technical Services Yusuf Abdool had also indicated that the equipment used at the facility is over 100 years old and replacing them will be too costly and in some cases, impossible as the parts are no longer available.

The closure of the Wales Estate follows that of the La Bonne Intention (LBI) in 2003 and Diamond Sugar Estate in 2011, which were at that time under the People’s Progressive Party’s (PPP)administration.